No longer at ease

“If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!” If you think you know the Buddha and understand him, kill the idea. The Buddha is beyond easy packaging. The religions of the East – Zen, Buddhism and Hinduism – value the practice of enlightenment. The whole aim of religion is to awaken the human spirit so that it is not satisfied with ordinary life but strives to reach a higher state of consciousness. But do not think it is an easy journey. The goal is always beyond you. If you think you understand God it is a sure sign you don’t.

biblelightrays636363-42People strive to go higher. That is why we value education. The government of every emerging nation, in its best moments, invests heavily in education. It knows that it opens doors to all other aspects of development. My own country of origin, Ireland, has virtually no natural resources besides its people and its land. But it has always invested heavily in education. As a result foreign companies, looking for places to invest, where the people will be able to follow complex processes, turn their eyes there.

But education is only a starting point. It has limits. Perhaps it is only a way of placing us on the road. It may be a tool that gives us employment but that alone does not satisfy the human heart. Enlightenment does not come from education automatically. And employment, if we are lucky enough to have it, does not necessarily bring happiness. People also yearn to know what lies beyond. They want experience, not just knowledge. They want to go out of themselves which is what ecstasy means. That is why we go to football matches! We want ecstasy! And we often get moments of it – in sport, in music, in art, in dance.

The story in Matthew about the wise men from the East following a star fits in here. There was no football then! But they were thrilled by this star. They had the education to know it was no ordinary star. They followed it. In T.S. Eliot’s poem they “had a hard time of it … with the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory… and the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly.” They have intimations of the passion – “three trees on the low sky.” It is a struggle to reach enlightenment. There are many disappointments and frustrations on the way. The secret is to hold steady to the journey. One day the star you are following will come to rest over the manger where the Lord of life lays. And then, in the words of Eliot, we will be “no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation.”

The Epiphany 2017

Isaiah 60:1-6                Ephesians 3:2…6                     Matthew 2:1-12

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Post published in: Faith